DSM predicts plant-based protein boon for its China hydrocolloid business

By Cheryl Tay contact

- Last updated on GMT

DSM's hydrocolloid facility in Chifeng recently resumed operations after being shut down for upgrades to improve safety, health, quality and environmental standards.
DSM's hydrocolloid facility in Chifeng recently resumed operations after being shut down for upgrades to improve safety, health, quality and environmental standards.

Related tags: plant-based protein, China

DSM's growing hydrocolloid business in China is spurring the company to expand further in the country, with the plant-based protein market a key area of interest in its upcoming plans.

After its gellan gum site expansion in Tongxiang, Zhejiang province in October 2015, the firm opened another facility in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia​ last November to focus on biogum (gellan gum, welan gum and xanthan gum) production.

More recently, the Chifeng site was shut down so DSM could make upgrades to improve safety, health, quality and environmental standards at the facility; it resumed operations earlier last month.

At the same time, a new innovation centre at the Tongxiang site was established to increase company's innovation capacity, with application labs for a wide range of food and beverage developments in China and abroad.

Planting new seed?

Now, DSM has its eye on the global plant-based protein market, which is expected to reach a CAGR of 6.7% between 2017 and 2022, according to Meticulous Research.

DSM China president Jiang Weiming told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "The market is increasing its appeal to consumers in China as the country's vegan sector is expected to grow by 17% between 2015 and 2020, while the Chinese government aims to cut meat consumption by as much as 50% by 2030.

"An increasing awareness of the health and environmental impact of meat production and consumption means more educated consumers are shifting towards plant protein as a source of nutrition. We have noticed how Asian consumers are following the path taken by (those in) the US, where plant-based offerings are seen as healthy and natural.

"Our experts provide tailored solutions that not only result in an appealing end-product, but also help our customers optimise their resource usage via reduction in wastage, and precise consumer targeting."

Considering the increasing health-consciousness among consumers in China, and the use of food hydrocolloids — present in different types of biogum — to manipulate the structure and texture of food, DSM sees significant potential in the plant-based protein market as more alternatives to meat are introduced to consumers.

Biogum innovations

Since opening its Chifeng facility, DSM has made certain advances in its biogum production.

This includes xanthan gum, a fermentation-derived biogum often used as a functional ingredient to thicken and stabilise emulsions and foams.

Jiang said, "We have developed an ultra-high transparent form of xanthan gum, which is highly sought after for F&B, cosmetics and personal care applications, many of which require not only high and consistent quality but also the transparency demanded for products that require an appealing visual appearance."

The other biogum, welan gum, was recently granted food-grade status in Japan, and has been used in an increasing number of food applications, such as sauces and dressings, ready-to-eat meals, snacks and soups.

Jiang said welan gum— known for its high heat stability and low protein reactivity — had gained a reputation as a "super hydrocolloid"​ in the context of dysphagia, underlining its potential in foods for the aged care sector.

Chinese strategy

In the foreseeable future, the company intends to strengthen its China focus, while also keeping an eye on opportunities throughout the rest of Asia.

Jiang said, "China has always been an important market to us as it accounts for one-fifth of the world's population. In China, the demand for healthy and nutritious food is growing fast, and it is the largest food and beverage market in the world in terms of total volume."

He added that as one of the biggest gellan gum providers in the country, DSM was obliged to help its customers — who are primarily in the dairy, confectionary and beverage industries — to be environmentally conscious and use natural resources efficiently.

Incidentally, this is another reason DSM is paying close attention to the plant-based protein market. It also expects the hydrocolloid business to aid in its expansion plans for not just China, but the rest of Asia as well.

Jiang said, "DSM's hydrocolloid business is run out of China, and was set up to focus on the fast-growing Asian market. The F&B industry in Asia-Pacific has tremendous potential, and judging from global trends, more and more people prefer food that contains less sugar or salt.

"Our hydrocolloid applications are ideal for producing healthy food with a pleasant taste. DHC (DSM Hydrocolloids) is well positioned to offer solutions that provide higher quality ingredients and healthy eating options.

"As a means to complement our footprint, our innovation centre (in Tongxiang) will strengthen our innovation capabilities, and further reduce turnaround times for developing new solutions for the F&B, personal care and industrial fields."

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